Chip Ganassi could become the first team owner to win the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year this weekend, having won the first two events already this season.
Jamie McMurray won the Sprint Cup series season-opening Daytona 500 in his return with Chip Ganassi's squad in February, which was a first for both him and the team. Then in May Dario Franchitti earned his second Indianapolis 500 win and Ganassi's fourth, while he became the first team owner to win both NASCAR's and IndyCar's premiere events in the same year.
While, in the IZOD IndyCar Series Franchitti is in close contention for the title, in the Sprint Cup Series, both McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya are well outside the top 12 in the standings with just seven races left before the Chase for the Championship starts in September. Ganassi is proud of his teams' achievements this year, but admits his NASCAR outfit seems to be falling short in lower-profile events, which add up just as much as the big ones in the standings.
"At the big events, our season has been pretty good," said Ganassi. "Obviously, with the wins at Daytona and Indianapolis we have the big events covered, but it seems to be those damn little events in between that make up the series, that we seem a bit challenged by here from time to time. But if you're going to win some, we're winning the ones you want to win.
"Our drivers get up for big events. They seem to like those places. Jamie and Juan in NASCAR both like Daytona. Dario and Scott [Dixon] both like Indianapolis. So our guys seem to be good at the places where the big races are. So many times you have drivers good at a particular type of track, and fortunately our guys are good at the tracks that have the big races. That's a big help."
Last year, Montoya started from the front row in the Brickyard 400 and led for 116 of the race's 160 laps, but following his final pit stop he was penalized for exceeding the speed limit on pit road, losing a race that he reckoned he had "in the bag." Ganassi recognizes that Montoya, the only driver to lead laps in the Indianapolis 500, the US GP and the Brickyard 400 at Indy, has a special liking for the legendary venue, which could prove vital in his hope of adding the second of NASCAR's big events to his team's resume.
"The thing I like about Juan is he races every lap," Ganassi said. "Having said that, there are certain tracks, certain things that guys like. Everybody's got something they like and for some reason Juan gets around Indianapolis well.
"He proved it from the first day he saw the place – I was standing there, and he liked it. Believe me, I was as surprised as anybody. It was in an Indy car and the pole speeds that year were in the 220s [mph] and in his very first run out of the box he did a high 216.
"We came in and asked, 'What's the car doing?' He said, 'The car is doing nothing, it's like a slot car.' I said, 'What do we need to do to go faster?' He said, 'I've got to hold my foot down farther.' So it's not a complex thing."
In three races in the Sprint Cup series at Indianapolis, Montoya, who became a father for the third time this week, has twice started from the front row, finishing second on his first stock car race at the venue in 2007. Meanwhile, McMurray finished third on his Brickyard debut in 2003 driving for Ganassi, and has two more top-10 finishes in seven races at the track.